#BookLover is one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram! And most parents today are keen on ensuring that their offspring inculcates a healthy loving relationship with the written word. There are enough and more studies done to prove the advantages of reading to your toddler, but for new parents (and especially non-reader parents) it can be a little daunting to figure out exactly how and what to read to the baby.
A friend recently asked my advice on which are the best baby books to start for her six-week-old son. Along with a list of some of our favourite authors, I also felt it’s important to understand how to read to young ones. Here are some pointers you should keep in mind whenever you’re reading to your bub:
1. Don’t make a chore out of it. Their attention span will be 60-90 seconds (yes, seconds!) and that’s ok. As very young infants, their eye-sight isn’t even developed enough to recognize colors. Sounds are more important at this age. Tell them stories while doing regular chores, or even read the newspaper (censored of course ;)). Remember that you have to make it a pleasant activity, rather than expecting them to sit still for hours and “read” like adults do.
2. If your little one is sitting up, and/or crawling, her first instinct will be to eat the book rather than read it! You shouldn’t get worried by this. Let her get familiar with the concept of reading books, keep them accessible for her to reach – maybe have a common book shelf cum toy shelf. But definitely (gently) take the book away from the mouth so that they eventually learn that it’s not ok to eat!
3. While baby books are available online, you should try to head to a book store nearby for your baby’s first books. Pick up some of the attractive looking books and see if you get a reaction from the little one (you may not). Books for newborns are quite uncomplicated in their story line, so just browse through a few and pick up what you feel most comfortable with. You never know what may catch your child’s fancy. We had a silly little bath-toy baby book which was read a few dozen times per day! It’s ok to judge kids’ books by their covers ;)
4. For babies up to 12 months old, go for a category of books which is commonly called “Touch and Feel”. These will have photos of animals or everyday objects, and some texture for the child to feel on each page (like a cloth, or some velvet, or plastic). While reading, make sure to put his hand on the texture and see the reaction.
5. Beyond that, as a general rule until your toddler grows up, stick to board book versions of book. All popular authors have board book and paperback versions. Even though they are slightly more expensive, it is a worthwhile investment for toddlers up to 2 years old. Board books can be managed by toddlers themselves, and need lesser supervision. Paper books tear easily (of course!) and since they don’t have control over fine motor skills, it can lead to unnecessary destruction of good books.
6. Baby reading can be scheduled to make a wonderful bedtime activity. But, it can also give you a small pocket of me-time during the day. Just take whatever book you’re reading currently (so long as it isn’t something gory like the Game of Thrones!) and read it aloud with the baby in your arms. You can do this till 6m-8m, and it makes for a wonderful bonding activity which parent & baby can both look forward to.
7. And lastly, use your imagination! I’ve got so many books where I make up stories based on the images. These stories are not what’s written on the book. They’re just sentences put together basically, and I point out to objects. “Look at that blue train” (point to train), and “That’s a yellow duck” (make a quack quack sound) and so on. Even when you graduate to story books, embellish them as much as you can – songs, sounds, actions. The more animated your story, the more likely it is that baby will enjoy it.
Technically speaking, you can start reading to your one-month old baby, but infant books typically cater to an audience that can sit up by themselves (so say five to six months onwards). Irrespective of when you start, make it something baby looks forward to. I’m sure even if you’ve never read any books in your life, you can find some joy in announcing my baby can read!
Also read: 5 Benefits of Reading Aloud To Your Kids
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